IBJNews

Noblesville company has high hopes for pomegranate

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Profile - Small Biz

Health-food fads come and go, but Verdure Sciences of Noblesville is banking on the staying power of pomegranate.

The botanical-extract distributor was recently awarded a patent on its pomegranate-based product called Pomella. Verdure has invested more than $1 million in marketing and research, and hopes to see its product in more foods and drinks, perhaps even mouthwash.

“Pomegranate was one of our major first breakthroughs,” CEO Ajay Patel said.

Verdure Ajay Patel is founder of Verdure, which has been doing pomegranate research since 2000. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Verdure Sciences sells a variety of botanical extracts to the dietary supplements industry. Patel declined to disclose total revenue, but an estimate by Nutrition Business Journal puts the company’s sales at $23 million for 2008.

Verdure is a small player in its segment of the U.S. dietary supplements industry, which was worth $25.2 billion in 2008, according to the Colorado-based NBJ.

The company’s strategy is to create branded ingredients by obtaining patents and backing research that uses those ingredients.

The strategy is common among ingredient suppliers these days, but it’s one that could pay off in a big way, said Carlotta Mast, NBJ editor.

For example, she noted that Columbia, Md.-based Martek Biosciences has become the dominant provider of plant-based omega-3, an essential fatty acid. The company’s Life’s DHA brand is found in a host of consumer products, from eggs to infant formula, she said.

“If [Verdure] could get one of these extracts into a mainstream food or beverage product that was able to gain a consumer following, it could really boost the size of their business,” Mast said.

Verdure’s Pomella patent, awarded last February, covers the chemical composition of the extract, which was developed by researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles. Verdure claims Pomella is more readily absorbed by the body than other pomegranate products, and therefore delivers a more powerful dose of the antioxidants that make pomegranate a so-called “super fruit.”

The company is already selling Pomella for use in several products, including juice made by California-based Langers and a chewable supplement sold by New Chapter, based in Brattleboro, Vt.

Verdure has been funding research on its pomegranate extract, as well as others, since 2000. Indeed, Patel hopes to one day land a licensing deal with a major food and beverage manufacturer.Verdure factbox

For now, Verdure is one of dozens of ingredient suppliers. The industry’s lobbying group, the American Herbal Products Association, counts 42 members, including Verdure, in its botanical supplier category alone.

“We’re in an industry where the barriers to entry are very low,” Technical Director Blake Ebersole explained. “We have to do what we can to set ourselves apart.”

The increasingly health-conscious consumer market is driving the supplements industry.

According to NBJ, total raw material and ingredient sales to the U.S. nutrition industry grew 11 percent in 2008 to $8.6 billion. That was the highest sales growth that ingredient suppliers had recorded since 1997, but NBJ noted it was partly attributed to higher costs.

Suppliers that the industry magazine surveyed last year said companies in the health-food niche were delaying product launches.

Like Verdure, other suppliers are setting their sights on the major food-and-beverage makers, which are looking for developments in so-called “functional” foods. These are conventional foods that may claim to offer additional health benefits, such as probiotic yogurt to aid digestion.

Patel, 36, started the firm in 1997 as a solo operation called Geni Herbs. He’d recently received a degree in chemical engineering from Purdue University and noticed that traditional Indian medicine was growing in popularity in the United States.

Patel’s father was involved in manufacturing herbal extracts back in India. So Patel decided to stay in Indiana and set up a distributorship. Verdure now has 13 employees and sales offices in Germany and Japan.

Although most of Verdure’s customers and research partners are on the East and West coasts, Patel said Indiana is a good place for his business. The local life sciences industry provides a pool of workers with the necessary expertise. Verdure also relies on local vendors for product testing, which is a key part of the business, especially under new U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations.

Verdure’s exclusive manufacturing partner is Pharmanza Herbals, owned by Patel’s family. The company has a 120-employee factory in the Indian state of Gujarat.

That relationship has been crucial to Verdure’s positioning as a high-quality ingredient supplier. Under new FDA rules, companies that market dietary supplements to consumers must be able to verify the contents of their products, the shelf life and the safety.

Consumer-product makers are turning to suppliers like Verdure for the required testing and documentation. With many of his competitors unable to provide those assurances, Patel said he expects to increase revenue 20 percent to 30 percent this year.

Patel said Verdure began spending more on documentation and testing several years ago. Quality-control expenses tripled in the past year alone, he said. “We have invested a ton of money to do this on the raw-material level.”

Ebersole, a chemist, spends a lot of time on the scientific conference circuit.

“Researchers are always looking for a breakthrough material to study,” he said.

That’s how Verdure got involved with UCLA’s clinical trial of curcumin for Alzheimer’s disease patients. Curcumin is the yellow pigment in the Indian spice turmeric, and it’s known as an anti-inflammatory, which is an area of interest for Alzheimer’s research.

The UCLA team is using Verdure’s specific curcumin formulation, called LongVida, and the company is seeking a patent on the product.

Obviously, Verdure hopes curcumin turns out to be the next star of the health-food industry, but Patel said he won’t allow his ingredients to be used as marketing gimmicks. Consumer-goods makers must use Verdure’s ingredients in amounts recommended by the research, he said.

Those standards are what will allow Verdure to outlive the fads, Ebersole said. “The idea is, if the product works, then the consumer keeps buying it.”•

ADVERTISEMENT

  • IBJ Verdure article
    April 10, 2010
  • Great article at Verdure Sciences
    This is a great article written a couple months ago about Verdure Sciences, where I am interviewing. Sounds like thy are not just a start-up "mom & pop" shop, but rather have some family support and backing from reletives from India. Sounds like a company with great potential! Hope it works out - you will have to have prayer time in the care tomorrow at 11am for my meeting with the CEO. Thanks.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. How can any company that has the cash and other assets be allowed to simply foreclose and not pay the debt? Simon, pay the debt and sell the property yourself. Don't just stiff the bank with the loan and require them to find a buyer.

  2. If you only knew....

  3. The proposal is structured in such a way that a private company (who has competitors in the marketplace) has struck a deal to get "financing" through utility ratepayers via IPL. Competitors to BlueIndy are at disadvantage now. The story isn't "how green can we be" but how creative "financing" through captive ratepayers benefits a company whose proposal should sink or float in the competitive marketplace without customer funding. If it was a great idea there would be financing available. IBJ needs to be doing a story on the utility ratemaking piece of this (which is pretty complicated) but instead it suggests that folks are whining about paying for being green.

  4. The facts contained in your post make your position so much more credible than those based on sheer emotion. Thanks for enlightening us.

  5. Please consider a couple of economic realities: First, retail is more consolidated now than it was when malls like this were built. There used to be many department stores. Now, in essence, there is one--Macy's. Right off, you've eliminated the need for multiple anchor stores in malls. And in-line retailers have consolidated or folded or have stopped building new stores because so much of their business is now online. The Limited, for example, Next, malls are closing all over the country, even some of the former gems are now derelict.Times change. And finally, as the income level of any particular area declines, so do the retail offerings. Sad, but true.

ADVERTISEMENT